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Look for the Light

Light.end.tunnel.use

My college training prepared me to teach children with visual impairments. One of the courses required students to perform tasks blindfolded. Walking without vision scared me the most. I felt insecure and terrified in the darkness. What relief when I removed the blindfold! Light comforted me.

Those of us who raise children with mental illness (MI) experience those same feelings. During our darkest days we search for Christ—the true Light who comforts us.

Last week the account of our story ended with Chris’s hospitalization. I shared how God transformed that horrible memory by using it as a reminder of His love. Our dark days were about to get darker. Thankfully, Christ’s light shined brighter during those days.

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A few hours after we got home I received a call from the hospital.

“Mrs. Chandler, Chris is refusing medication. Will you give us permission to give him an injection?”

“Okay. If it’s necessary.”

When I called later I found out Chris had been put in isolation. He had put up such a fight when they tried to give him the medication. Images filled my head of Chris in isolation. Sedated. Confused. Alone.

“When will he be taken out of isolation? When can I visit him?” I questioned.

“We’re about to take him out now.”

When I arrived at the psychiatric ward, reality hit. The unit was locked. In order to gain entrance I had to ring a bell and announce my name. Then a nurse let me in.

The information provided by the social worker (when Chris was admitted) helped me understand some of the procedures.

It explained that guests were to visit patients only in the lounge areas, not in their bedrooms. But a nurse ushered me into Chris’s room. There sat a woman talking to Chris. When I entered the room she didn’t introduce herself to me. It was a very sensitive moment for Chris and me. This was the first time we had seen each other since the terrible scene at home. We hadn’t seen each other since we had him committed.

Chris sat hunched over. His head bent downward.

“Hi Chris. It’s Mom.”

He raised his head in slow motion. His eyes seemed to be searching for something. As if trying to focus through a fog. He made no attempt to speak. Through his heavy sedation I could detect his emotional turmoil. A mother can just sense when her child is hurting.

“It’s Mom,” I repeated.

“I’m sorry,” he managed to say.

“There’s no need for you to apologize. I know you’re just sick—”

“Do you think Chris has been under a lot of stress lately?” The unidentified woman asked, intruding on our private moment.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m Chris’s psychiatrist,” she answered, still not giving me her name. “Chris has been contradicting himself,” she continued.

“Of course he’s contradicting himself; he’s psychotic!” I shot back. “Why are you talking with him in his bedroom? It’s against the policy for anyone to meet with patients in their bedrooms.”

“I just started working in this hospital and am not familiar with the procedures of the ward,” she explained.

Is she kidding? I read the procedures booklet immediately after we returned from the hospital. What kind of professional doesn’t prepare herself for her job? I wonder if she’s even qualified at all!

Later that day I typed a letter to the chief psychiatrist requesting Chris have a different psychiatrist. Chris was immediately switched to the care of the head psychiatrist.

Chris’s stay at the hospital was as bad as I imagined. He had to be strip-searched and all his belongings were taken from him. He was included with troubled teens (who were either suicidal, drug abusers, or violent). There were very strict rules about when he could call us, what he could wear, and what belonging he could have. Each time he had to use the bathroom a nurse had to unlock it.

No wonder Chris informed me, “I’m in jail, Mom.”

Howie and I visited Chris every time there were visiting hours. We stayed the entire time. Chris began to appreciate our unconditional love for him.

“Mom, PLEASE get me out of here,” he’d beg.

“Not yet, Chris. You’re here to get better.”

It was hard to witness him desperately trying to figure out how to get released.

He’d lay his head in my lap and ask me to stroke him. When my boys had grown up I missed doing thing like that. It was bittersweet to be able to nurture Chris in that way once again. I was happy to be able to comfort him. But it ate me up inside to see him so pathetic, so broken.

Howie passed the time by playing cards or chess with Chris. Robert didn’t want to see his brother in such a place. For a while I respected that. I knew Robert was dealing with lots of questions from curious students at school (some caring and some nosy). He was also struggling with getting around school on crutches.

Finally I asked Robert to visit Chris.

“Chris needs to see you, Rob,”

Being very compliant, Rob agreed to go.

During the time Chris was in the hospital there were several things that were hard to hear. Like what he said in one phone conversation.

“It was a good plan to put me in the hospital so I could see that life can be even worse than I ever imagined.”

In another phone call he said, “They took my Bible. God’s not in this place. I’m in prison.”

“Oh Chris. God IS in that place. He’ll let you know how much He loves you. You’ll see,” I assured him. Those words were spoken in faith, believing God would show Chris His love. I had no idea how, but was sure He’d be faithful.

The very next day Chris shared how God revealed His love in that dark place.

“One of the nurses is a Christian, Mom. She gave me back my Bible and said she’s praying for me.”

Many look for the light at the end of the tunnel. We need not wait for the end of the darkness. There is Light in the tunnel—His love shines brightly.

Turn to Him in your darkness and ask Him to hold your heart. Listen to Tenth Avenue North sing ‘Hold my heart.’    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ry6udsW9leA

Transformed Memories

Power Up OR Up Power

Power Up OR Up Power

Beauty and ugliness captured together. One picture—two kinds of power. Black branches shroud the power plant. God’s artistry illuminates the darkness. Revealing His colorful sunset. A symbol of God’s power.

Can pain and love be captured in one event? Can one experience create two vastly different memories? Can a traumatic memory become a reminder of the Father’s love? Yes. But how?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could transform our worst nightmare into a symbol of love? We can’t. But God can. He did it for me. He healed my most traumatic memory.

Here’s the next part of our story (see previous four weeks for the background).

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Chris had already assaulted my husband and me. Confirming the psychiatrist’s warning that Chris had become violent and unstable—clearly in need of hospitalization. Thankfully God protected Howie and me. Concerns still consumed me.

How will we get Chris to the hospital? When will he explode again?

The very next night, Chris assaulted us. This time, Chris hit Howie first and then me. When he turned his back to Howie to hit me (in the jaw again!), Howie got hold of him. I quickly left the bedroom to call 911. As I started walking downstairs I thought, Are you nuts? How is Howie supposed to hold Chris down alone?

I went back upstairs. As I entered our bedroom, I could see that Howie was losing his grip on Chris. If Chris got loose, there was no telling what he’d do to us. My presence in the room distracted Chris. Howie got a better hold on him. Quickly, I helped Howie hold Chris down on the floor.

I managed to close the bedroom door so our other son wouldn’t witness his raging brother. Robert didn’t need to see us restraining Chris, who growled like an enraged animal.

“Robert, call 911! Tell them to send an ambulance,” I screamed.

We calculated later that it took at least ten minutes for the police to arrive. That was the longest ten minutes of my life. As we held Chris down on the floor, his nose started bleeding. Blood poured from his nose onto our carpet.

Howie was on one side of Chris and I was on the other. I couldn’t see what was happening to Howie. All I heard was Howie making grunting sounds as if he was getting hurt.

I learned later that Chris was head-butting Howie, while trying to bite me. As we wrestled Chris, my finger got caught in his mouth. I jammed my fist farther into his mouth to release his grip. It worked!

Shortly after, it happened again. Chris bit my hand. Again, I shoved my fist into his mouth. As I removed my hand, my baby finger got caught in the strong grips of his teeth.

Just at that moment, I heard a different sound from Howie. I heard him moan.

“Is it your heart, Howie?”

“I think so.”

Later, I found out Robert thought his father was having a heart attack. I did too.

As I looked at my finger in the clutches of Chris’s teeth, I considered my options. I could leave it in so I could maintain my strong hold on Chris. Or, I could use my other hand to get my finger free. If I moved my other hand that was restraining Chris, he would surely get loose and hurt us. If I didn’t move my other hand, I thought I’d watch Chris bite my finger off.

I don’t remember what happened next. All I know is my finger got out of Chris’s mouth and we both had a more secure hold on him. It was an eternity of silent agony.

An army of police officers came to our house. I never thought I’d be relieved to have my son handcuffed. But, I was. I knew we would all be safe and Chris would have the best chance of getting better. Howie and I were exhausted.

The police took Chris away in an ambulance. Howie and I rushed to follow it to the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital just as the police were escorting Chris into the emergency entrance. We caught up to him. The dark, empty look in his eyes was replaced by a pathetic look. I saw the helpless, pleading look of a son who needed his mother.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“It’s OK, Chris. We know you didn’t mean it. You’re just sick. That’s all.”

At the admissions desk the nurse asked me the routine questions.

“Patient’s name?…”

After a series a questions, she reached out and touched my hand. Then embraced my eyes with a compassionate stare. Her silence spoke volumes. When she spoke again, her words sounded softer and sincere.

“You’ve done the hardest part, Mrs. Chandler. You got him here,” she assured me.

“How do you know that?”

“I had to admit my daughter to this psychiatric unit recently,” she confided.

Thank You, Lord for giving me another mother who understands what I’m feeling. 

“What do you think of the care in this hospital?” I inquired.

“It’s excellent.”

In the waiting room, Howie and I noticed our injuries. The inside of Howie’s lip was raw and bloody from being hit repeatedly by Chris’s head. There was a large cut on his face just under his eye. I had no cuts. Only bruises. All over my arms and legs.

During the six hours we waited, doctors and nurses tried to get Chris to admit himself. But he refused. He would have to be admitted against his will.

A crisis management person was assigned to our case. He explained the law. Legally, involuntary commitment can be initiated if someone is a threat to themselves or others. Chris had proven to be a threat to others. We were informed of the steps in the process. First, a thorough evaluation would be done to determine that Chris was truly incompetent. Then, there would be a hearing.

After a while, Chris fell asleep. He was taken to a room in the adolescent psychiatric ward of the hospital. God was gracious to provide a way for Chris to get treatment in a regular hospital. That way, his peers wouldn’t have to know exactly what was wrong. They’d simply know he was sick and in the hospital. Not in a psychiatric hospital. The hospital was only five minutes from our home. Our insurance covered all of the expenses.

As we left the hospital, we were given a packet of information. It contained all the rules and regulations of the psychiatric ward. A lot to read after experiencing such an ordeal.

We returned home at 6:00 AM. Robert got ready to go to bed. Howie began to clean up the dog’s mess on the steps. I entered our bedroom and immediately noticed the pool of blood on our rug. I feverishly began scrubbing the rug before Robert saw it.

Then, I went to check on Robert. I noticed him standing near Chris’s bedroom door. The door was slightly opened.

Pointing to Chris’s door Robert said, “He’s in there.”

The past two months prepared me to expect anything. So, I assumed Chris had somehow escaped from the hospital. I peeked into his room and caught a glimpse of legs in the bed. The shocked and puzzled look on my face told Robert I thought it was Chris in the room.

“It’s Dad,” he explained.

I pushed the door open. Enough to see Howie lying in Chris’s bed sobbing. I’d never even seen Howie cry before, let alone sob!

“It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault,” he kept saying.

“No it’s not. Chris is sick mentally. He’ll get better,” I assured him and myself.

Later that day, Howie and I compared notes. We shared what we were thinking as we held our son down. What we felt as we waited for the police to come and take him away to a psychiatric ward. Our overriding emotion was one of tremendous sorrow for Chris.

The Lord replaced that dreadful experience with a beautiful symbol of Christ’s love. Howie and I were careful not to hurt Chris as we held him down. Neither of us minded the blows he gave us. Even though Chris cursed us, we loved him unconditionally. That’s how it was with Jesus. He died for us because He loves us unconditionally. He was wounded for our transgressions. No matter how much we curse Him or stray from Him, He loves us just the same. He understands us.

The most horrific story in the Bible is Christ’s crucifixion. He experienced agony on the cross. For those who have accepted his death as payment of their sins, that picture of brutality has become a beautiful symbol of His unconditional love.

What’s your worst experience with your child who has mental illness (MI)? God can heal that painful memory. Pray this prayer:

Dear Father,

Please transform my painful memory. Give me an eternal perspective of that awful experience. Remove the horrific image that plagues my thoughts and replace it with a picture of Your love. Thank You for the promises of Your love. My heart still sings, ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’”

“The Old Rugged Cross” (sung by Alan Jackson) reminds us of God’s unconditional love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fa1afzmDL1Q

 

What’s it like?

peek

Here goes. I’m going to share some of the most horrible details of mental illness (MI).

Why would I share such intimate details of my life? What would motivate me to re-live painful memories? To let other moms raising kids with MI know they’re not alone. Other families experience similar struggles.

Our trials are both alike and unique. The details of your journey with MI may be different. But many of us share the experience of an unpredictable life. We all have access to the unchanging, reliable Father. God’s faithfulness is the thread that holds us together and connects our stories.

“What’s it like to have a psychotic episode? What’s life like for a mother whose son is out of touch with reality?” people wonder.

For me, it seemed endless … all-consuming …overwhelming … daunting … surreal. I needed endurance, wisdom to manage odd behaviors, and comfort to remain calm.

The last two weeks I’ve shared details about our journey. In the first part of our story [‘When Mental Illness (MI) Hit Home’] I shared how Chris had begun to unravel in 1996. His reality had given way to unstable thoughts and fractured emotions. My heavenly Father provided guidance and started helping me through my grieving.

Last week’s entry (‘Unprepared & Sad, but Unflinching’) showed how God provided peace and protection for me and medical care for Chris. This week I’ll continue the story and explain how God provided endurance and wisdom.

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For ten days, I didn’t sleep at night. I only rested. I took very brief showers in the evening when my husband was home. I hid all our knives, scissors, matches, medicine, and anything else I thought could be a weapon or harmful to Chris or us.

It was important for me to keep track of where our dog was at all times without Chris realizing it. I had to maintain a calm demeanor no matter what Chris’s emotions were. One minute, he’d hug. Minutes later, he sob and say, “Why me? I didn’t do anything wrong.”  Suddenly, he’d explode. He’d shout, break walls and mirrors, and slam doors.

I recall one incident when Chris karate-kicked a mirror. As I sat on the floor cleaning up the broken glass, I sobbed. It felt like I was picking up the broken pieces of his life.

Watching my son so broken was heart wrenching. It didn’t seem real to witness his bazaar and violent behavior.  His explosion of emotions seemed like years of pain were being unleashed.

Those days were difficult for Rob as well. Life was anything but normal. He had to go to school and act as if everything was fine. Robert thought the brother he knew was gone. I couldn’t guarantee Chris would return to reality, or ever be like he used to be.

There was no way for me to shield Robert from what he had to see at night. As Robert got ready for bed that night, he had to step around the broken glass and his weeping mother.

We witnessed Chris destroy other things. He’d pick up something, break it, and say, “This is evil.” He took Robert’s Casio keyboard and totally destroyed the controls.

God helped me endure the constant playing of “Jesus Christ Superstar” (the opera). Chris played it over and over and over until I thought I’d lose my mind. I couldn’t take the CD away until I felt sure Chris wouldn’t become violent looking for it.

After I hid the CD, I heard Chris playing the opera on the piano. Robert begged, “Do something to make him stop playing that music.” Hiding the piano wasn’t possible.

Chris also played “Joy to the World” in a dissonant tone. That song was always coupled with his warning, “The world is going to end.” One day, he got his trumpet and yelled, “Turn on the TV. Here it comes!!! Get ready! The world will end now!”

What does that mean? What does he intend to do?! Oh Father, please protect me.

Thankfully, nothing happened. Oddly enough, his musical abilities never left him. He played the piano and the trumpet all day. Always in a distorted, dissonant tone. Reflecting his tormented emotions. It was as if he found a creative outlet for his misery. I heard it. All. Day. Long.

Chris made the strangest comments and barraged me with questions. He constantly asked me what the Bible said about certain things. His racing thoughts caused him to demand the answers immediately. I couldn’t find the verses fast enough. Even though I was extremely frustrated, I couldn’t yell at him or give up. Either of those responses would have gotten him angry or violent. God filled me with supernatural calmness.

His distorted view of God’s Word resulted in peculiar actions. One day, he ripped the back of a white shirt and tied it around his neck to represent wings. He declared, “I’m the archangel.”

He carried his Bible everywhere and preached nonstop. We had to stop speaking about the Lord because that would just feed his twisted thinking. I never realized how much a part of my everyday conversations were about the Lord. I hid all our Bibles. We had more than I imagined!

One day, the mother of a girl from Chris’s school called to let me know he had called their home at 2:00 in the morning. To prevent future mid-night wake-up calls, we hid all our phones.

During the day, I couldn’t turn on the radio or TV. I didn’t want to risk Chris hearing something that would feed his distorted thoughts. I struggled to find something to do. Household chores lent themselves to calm and productive activities.

Chris’s blood pressure remained high as long as his mind raced. Often, his nose started bleeding. As a child, I had endured numerous nosebleeds. So, I knew what did and didn’t work to make the bleeding stop.

When Chris got his first bloody nose, I began to tell him what to do.

“Breathe out of your mouth, Chris.”

Chris perceived that as controlling and he resisted. He did the opposite of what I told him to do. In my frustration and sorrow, I cried.

Chris responded by shaking his head from side to side. The blood flew all around the bathroom, splattering it on the walls. It looked like a murder scene. I knew if I didn’t leave the bathroom, his nose would never stop bleeding. I had to walk away.

Please, Lord, stop his nose from bleeding.

Each day I kept anecdotal records and documented what was going on. This helped the professionals identify what was wrong with Chris. I administered his medication (Risperdal). It was important to follow the doctor’s specific instructions. The dosage had to be adjusted each day. We quickly spiked the dosage during the first few days, and then gradually lowered the dosage as he became more stabilized.

Twice every day, I gave Chris his medicine. It slowly restored some awareness of reality. But, Chris’s mental illness remained. His distorted thinking led him to believe the pills I gave him caused his strange thoughts. He thought I was intentionally trying to cloud his mind. So, he threatened my life.

He found a screw driver. Holding it two inches from my face he’d say, “I’ll kill you if you give me that pill.”

Each dose became a life and death experience. I’d look lovingly into his tortured eyes and calmly whisper, “Take your pill. It will help you.” Miraculously, Chris took it each time. Sometimes after first growling at me.

Thank You, Father, for protecting me every time I give Chris his meds.

One day, without my knowledge, Howie gave Chris some over-the-counter medication. The doctor said it would help calm Chris down. The problem was I had just administered an increased dosage of the Risperdal. I took Chris in the car to see some Christmas lights. Suddenly, he began to get extremely agitated. He started pounding the dashboard. Then he put his head back and said, “My tongue is swollen.” He began shouting and crying. It was extremely difficult to drive while calming Chris.

Thank You, God, for helping us return safely home. 

My heavenly Father provided endurance and gave the wisdom needed to manage Chris’s bazaar and violent behaviors. He helped me face the unthinkable. He’ll do that for you.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20).”

God’s love never fails. He lifts us up when we’re weak. Join the Afters as they praise God in their song, ‘Lift Me Up.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6UAGhJHmOw

 

Unprepared & Sad but Unflinching

eyes.Sofies.to.side

Fans don’t flinch when a soaring hockey puck rockets towards them. Why? Because of the protective glass separating them from harm.

That gives us a picture of God’s protection. When mental illness (MI) takes aim at our lives, we can envision the invisible hand of God enfolding our family members … our hearts … our minds.

How can we face our worst fears? By trusting in the One who can protect and provide. That’s the key to inner peace when an incoming strike from MI looms on the horizon.

MI can discombobulate our life and throw us off-balance. Leave us feeling torn apart and sad. Worn out and worried.

Torment doesn’t have to saturate our soul in the midst of tremendous sorrow. Peace will replace anxiety as we trust Him more. We hold onto the promise that, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Last week I shared the first part of our story [‘When Mental Illness (MI) Hit Home’]. In 1996 Chris had begun to unravel. His reality had given way to unstable thoughts and fractured emotions. My heavenly Father provided guidance and started helping me through my grieving.

This second part of that journey demonstrates my need for God’s peace and protection. Chris needed medical care. God faithfully provided.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

“Howie, Chris is having a breakdown. He needs help. I can take him to school tomorrow. The school psychologist, Jack, will know what to do.”

During the night, I didn’t sleep well. I heard Chris go in the bathroom a lot. He turned on the shower about five times. When everything became quiet, I got up to check on him. The bathroom door was closed. I assumed Chris fell asleep in the bathroom.

The next morning, somehow I got Chris dressed and in the car. As I drove, I explained what was happening. Even though he seemed incoherent, I felt the need to prepare him. Maybe it was my way of pretending the whole thing was normal.

“Chris, you’re probably mentally ill. You need some medicine to feel better. You’re going to talk to someone who is trained to help.”

Memories of my own childhood flashed in my mind. My father experienced a breakdown. He took medicine for depression and led a successful and happy life. That provided some comfort.

At school, I explained my situation to the headmaster.

“Chris’s mind has snapped. He’s lost it. I brought him to see our school psychologist,” I bluntly reported.

“Take Chris home. I’ll call when Jack arrives,” Bill replied.

I returned home with Chris. When we walked into our home, I noticed something alarming. Our dog’s eyes looked totally bloodshot, swollen, and almost bleeding. My mouth dropped open when I noticed her wet fur. Frozen in my tracks, I stood staring at her in disbelief. As if Chris read my mind, he explained what happened.

“I put her in the shower to get the blood off. I slapped her. She wouldn’t sit when I asked her to. She kept going for the dog treats.”

I realized Chris kept Zelda in the bathroom with him during the night. He harmed the dog he loved. The dog that comforted him many days after school. I gently stroked Zelda while waiting for Jack to call. Tears streamed down my face. Chris continued pacing. Mumbling to himself.

Soon after, the psychologist called. I explained the situation.

“Bring Chris to school. I’ll talk with him and find out what’s going on,” Jack instructed.

After a short visit with him, the psychologist concluded Chris was having a psychotic episode (commonly referred to as a nervous breakdown).

“I know a good physician who can evaluate Chris.”

We drove to Dr. Kent’s office. Once we arrived, the nurse ushered Chris and me to a treatment room. Jack briefed Dr. Kent in another room.

The nurse asked the routine question, “So, why are we here today?”

“Because I’m mentally ill.”

Chris’s answer shocked both of us.

“Is that right?” she asked me.

I nodded yes.

She took Chris’s blood pressure (which was soaring) and rushed out of the room.

Dr. Kent and Jack came into the room. Each of them locked onto my eyes with their stares. Dr. Kent pressed his lips tightly together. As if trying to keep the bad news from escaping his mouth. Jack shifted his gaze to the floor. As if searching for some other way to deliver the message. Their silence spoke volumes. I knew Dr. Kent agreed with Jack’s initial diagnosis.

After a brief observation, Dr. Kent explained the plan.

“First, we need to stabilize Chris. Bring him back to reality. After that, we can deal with what caused the episode.”

His soft, quiet word conveyed compassion. As he spoke, I could tell by his expression this was serious. Although I understood his words, it all seemed surreal.

Dr. Kent continued. “Chris should be hospitalized. But, we’d like to avoid that if at all possible. Would you be willing to try to stabilize him at home, Mrs. Chandler?”

“Yes.”

I knew it would be risky to have Chris around people—even his own family. But during the day, Howie would be in work and Rob would be in school. I’d do anything to keep Chris from being hospitalized.

The assurance of God’s presence always comforted me. So I gave myself a pep talk.

Shift your gaze, Vicki. Trust Him. God’s promised His protection and guidance. He’ll be with you. He’ll show you what needs to be done.

It would be important to create a safe environment. Deep down inside, I knew I couldn’t protect myself from a young man who was bigger, stronger, and smarter than me. Chis had a black belt in karate. I hid all our knives and scissors. The rest would be up to God.

Oh Father, keep us safe. Protect me during the day. My mind is tempted to panic. My heart is aching to scream out. I’m struggling to keep my composure. Chris needs me to remain calm. Fill me with Your perfect peace. Help him sense Your peace.

I had no idea what would happen each day. No idea how bad things would get.

In the most trying times, many of us tend to fear the worst. “How will I ever get through this?” we worry. “This situation seems so horrible—so impossible to solve … I don’t want to think about what will happen next.”

In the midst of uncertainty, we can be sure of God’s care. When MI hits, God provides people who can help. Our loving Father can help us remain calm in the midst of the crisis.

We may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. The song ‘He Already Sees’ by The Collingsworth Family has such an assuring message, with encouraging words: “He sees the rainbow when we see only clouds.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25ryU9Jbt0Q

 

 

Greater Than World-Class

Hawaii.Le.Mer

Le Mer Restaurant, Hawaii

Ever been to a five-diamond restaurant? I did only once. My husband and I went on the vacation of a lifetime. We traveled to Hawaii and splurged on an extravagant dinner. What made it so spectacular? Superb food. Unobtrusive service. Romantic ambiance. And a breath-taking view. The reflection of the sunset on the ocean, just outside our window, whispered, “Welcome to Paradise.”

How does a restaurant achieve a five-diamond status? Our son, Chris, worked for the AAA Club several summers. Often callers inquired about their Diamond Rating Definitions. Chris could articulate the distinction between different levels of service. For example, at a five-diamond restaurant diners would discover that their needs were not just met, but anticipated.

Our children who have mental illness (MI) require five-diamond attention. We attempt to anticipate their needs.  When Chris finished treatment for his psychotic episode, I wanted to prepare him for his return to high school.

“If anyone asks you why you were absent for so long, just answer, ‘I was sick and now I’m better.’”

I wondered if Chris would be able to handle any stress. So I contacted the principal.

“If Chris feels overwhelmed, I doubt he’d ask permission to leave class. He might not want to face any questioning in front of his peers. Would there be a way for him to leave class inconspicuously?”

“I’ll give Chris a “gold pass. All his teachers will be instructed that if Chris presents the pass to them they should excuse him—with no questions asked.”

The principal even provided a safe place for Chris to go on such occasions. Chris could report to a person who would be available and qualified to help him with his stress. Three staff members were identified: one on each floor of the huge school building.

Was I able to provide five-diamond protection for Chris? No. I couldn’t anticipate all his needs. That reality sometimes led to my own anxiety.

Those of us raising children with MI are keenly aware of our child’s fragile mental stability or of their shaky emotional well-being. We’d love to keep them in a protective bubble. But we’re simply not able to provide for their every need.

What are we to do? Wring our hands in anxiety or fold them in prayer? Folded hands aren’t a symbol of resignation. But a position of hopeful expectation. When we pray for our kids, we’re not giving up; we’re giving THEM up—to Him. It’s relief for our grief. We can rest in His loving care.

In the Hands of God, our child receives BETTER than five-diamond service. His care is more perfect than anything we can provide. Jesus reminds us, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)”

What a comfort to know that the One who created our child knows his needs even before he asks! And He knows our own thoughts too.

Raising a child with MI can be a lonely journey. Often we wonder if anyone understands. Even our own spouse can’t seem to comprehend how we need to be supported. We wish someone would know our deepest thoughts. Thankfully, we can turn to the One who knows better than we know ourselves. How many of us offer this as our prayer to God?

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:1-6)”

It is difficult to comprehend His love. When I contemplate my status as His child, I begin to understand.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1-3)”

May you be lavished with His love today.

Reflect on His love as you listen to Scripture Songs’ ‘Behold What Manner of Love – 1 John 3:1.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3U9GJf6B7mc

Real or Unreal

Macaw

The Macaw caught my eye. Was it real or stuffed? Soon I found out.

The aisles in the tropical bird store were crammed with supplies for bird-lovers. I stepped back to snap a picture of the feathery creature and knocked into a shelf of feeders. “Uh-oh,” flew out of my mouth proclaiming my fear that they’d all topple over.

“Uh-oh,” echoed back.

Did I just hear that? To confirm my suspicions, I repeated my reaction. “Uh-oh.”

“Uh-oh,” bellowed back the refrain from the perch. That parrot, asserted itself by honking, “Uh-oh!”  As if mocking my clumsiness. Proclaiming my private mistake to the entire store.

Thankfully, a parrot can’t repeat unspoken words. Ideas hidden in peoples’ minds are safe.

“A penny for your thoughts.”  Would you reveal your most intimate thoughts so cheaply?

That phrase won’t necessary buy accurate information from a child with mental illness (MI). You might only get silence or a glare.

Years ago, when I attended part of Chris’s appointments with his psychologist, the doctor would ask, “So Chris, what are you thinking?”

Chris often looked at me as if to say, “I’m not gonna say anything with her here. My thoughts are private.”

Can you blame him? Would you willingly reveal your every thought? Certainly not the ugly ones.

Thankfully, most of us can suppress vindictive, angry, impure or judgmental thoughts. We put the mental brakes on opinions that threaten to contaminate our conversations. We resist the temptation to blurt out impressions like, “Wow! I can’t believe she …” We stifle our speech when feeling, “I wish he would just …”

Foreign thoughts that invade our thinking are annoying. It could be worse. What if we couldn’t trust our thoughts? That would be horrifying. That’s what it’s like for individuals with MI who hear voices. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish real from unreal.

We can help children who hear voices by suggesting how to distinguish between real and unreal. Those that spew hurtful or hateful messages are most likely not real; they’re symptoms of MI. The best offense is to fill their minds with undeniable Truth. God is real. He loves them.

We need to remind ourselves of that fact. God is real. And His love for us is very real.

Troubles seem to stalk our families. Bazaar behaviors become the norm. We seem to stumble through dark days searching for an ounce of hope. Praying for normalcy.

I don’t know about you, but there were days I thought I’d simply ignore the reality of MI in my life. As if I could will it away with positive thoughts.

Today, I’m going to be at peace.

But anxious thoughts would ambush my plan. Worries would pounce on my artificial peace. And pound away at my awareness of His presence. Sometimes I’d experience more subtle attacks. My focus would meander throughout the day. Carefree thoughts would focus on this chore and that errand. Then curiosity would lure me down dark paths in my mind.

I wonder if Chris is sitting alone at lunch. Did he remember to ask the teacher for testing in a quiet setting?

Such seductive contemplation would suddenly entrap me. I’d find myself snarled in my own deception.

Chris can’t be okay because no one is there to help him.

Then I’d come to my senses and remember God wouldn’t abandon Chris. At those times, I refused to allow concerns to trample my trust in Him.

How could my trust in God be unshakable? Because of who He is.

In my training to be a vision support teacher, I had to experience what it’s like to be blind. The professor instructed me to wear a blindfold and follow a sighted guide. My level of trust depended on the person leading. If I knew he’d protect me from injury, I relaxed. If my guide had difficulties paying attention, I peeked under my blindfold. Knowing I had to depend on myself.

The more I know of God and His love for me, the more I can rest in His care. I assure myself: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6)”

Thank You, Father, that You’re very real. Your Word is true and I can depend on Your love. Make Your presence known to me today in greater ways. Align and synchronize my thoughts with Yours.

God answers, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)”

Rejoice in His strength as you listen to Hillsong’s ‘Believe.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbIXoPblF8Q

Don’t Underestimate Your Influence

PositiveInfluence

Do you ever wonder if you’re helping your child who has mental illness (MI)? His illness may prevent him from thanking you. Your spouse may not acknowledge your efforts. When we near our breaking point, we’re tempted to give up.

This message is dedicated to the countless moms who privately provide support. No one sees all you do. No one could know how you minister to your child, in spite of your broken heart. You’d much rather crawl into bed and cry … for a week or two. But there’s no time for you to grieve.

Recently, I witnessed beautiful motherly care and attention. My good friend sat beside her adult son in a mental health care facility.

She had recently totaled her car, which left her with some back pain. She and her husband had settlement the day after her son was admitted into the hospital. Her husband had paper work to do. So she went to visit her son alone (not knowing I’d come alongside her).

In spite of fighting a cold, she asked all the right questions. Presenting each one lovingly.

“Did you eat last night?”
“How did you sleep?”

“Do you like your psychiatrist?”

“Do you take a walk in the hallway sometimes?”

“Did you have group?”

“What are you thinking?”

Periodically, she gently stroked his arm. Sometimes, she allowed silence.

She reassured him without promising something that may not happen.

“Do you think I’ll be able to go to my Bible study’s Christmas party on Friday?” her son asked.

“Maybe. Hopefully,” was her honest reply.

My friend held it together while in the hospital. Until we stepped outside after visiting hours. The exit door became a faucet for her tears.

I tried to comfort her. “Are you okay?”

“I’m numb,” she said as she softly cried.

I gently stroked her back.

Will her son be released before Christmas? That remains to be seen. Will his new medication restore him to his sweet self? Time will tell.

When is it a good time to be hospitalized for MI? Certainly not at Christmas.

Seventeen years ago Christmas wasn’t a time for celebration. Our son, Chris, had to be hospitalized. Those memories mercifully have begun to fade. Visiting my friend’s son threatened to arouse painful emotions.

“Are you sure you want to go?” asked my husband lovingly. Wondering if it would be too difficult for me to relive reminders of our son’s hospitalization.

“This will be healing for me,” I answered. “I know how much it would have meant if someone sat by me when Chris was hospitalized (if you couldn’t come). Especially if that person knew exactly what I was feeling.”

So I went. And was blessed by what I saw in my friend’s compassionate care of her son.

Her son also impressed me. There he sat in a psychiatric hospital speaking about God’s Word. He quoted verses from the Bible and discussed some of his favorite stories. His shattered cognition didn’t dampen his determination to focus on the Lord. His inner turmoil didn’t rob him of his love for God. My friend can take credit for investing Truth in him. God’s Word promises that His Truth will not come back void.

Isaiah 55:11 tells us, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”  (KJV)

Can anyone relate to the thankless care you provide for your child with MI? Certainly the Lord can. He healed ten lepers, but only one thanked Him. He died on the cross for the sins of all mankind, but men mocked Him as He hung dying. Spewing anger in return for His unconditional love. Countless still ignore His free gift of salvation.

Christ surely knows what it’s like for you. He sees your faithful labors of love. So seek His approval. He’s well-pleased with you. And know this: you’re having a positive impact on your child even though it can’t be measured.

Hang in there, with your focus firmly fixed on Him.

The song “In Christ Alone” (from the Secrets Of The Vine CD) reminds us that, “Here in the power of Christ we stand.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExnTlIM5QgE